Loss and Grief

Sickness & Surgery: 10 Best Ideas & Gifts for Recovering Friends

My last blog post didn't go over all that well with you--my beautiful community of amazing women--and you were quick to let me know I had it wrong.  :) In hindsight, I probably chose the wrong illustration (a woman recovering from surgery) to make my point: loving acts are loving acts from our friends even if they don't initially read our minds to proactively give to us what we most need at any given time.  I think we too often take personally someone's inability to automatically know what we need. But even my husband who lives with me and knows me deeply can't always guess what I need at different times.  It's ultimately my responsibility to reflect on what I need, communicate that, and trust that his love is no less sincere as he responds to what I requested.

But to make penance for any implication that someone who's sick or in pain is at fault (she's not!) if her friends are disappointing her-- let's make a list of fun ideas and gifts to give to our friends who are in physical recovery mode.  :)

5 Easy and Affordable Gifts Post Surgery/Health Crisis

Easy because much as I admire those of you who can creatively put together something all thematic and homemade, I'm way more likely to send a gift if all I have to do it order it! Just only click and these gifts will be on their way!

Affordable because while we might want to pull off paying for house cleaning, massages, or meal deliveries for one of our closest friends-- most of us are on a budget and will have to suffice with cheaper expressions of care. These are all between $15-35!

  • An infused water bottle "Drink! Drink! Drink!" is what we have to do to recover, but water gets boring after a while! For $14 send her a fun new way to get her fluids down!  And for another $8 you can add a recipe book filled with 80 water & fruit recipes for health!

 

 

  • Coloring Book and Pencils!  Prismacolors are by far my favorite colored pencils (and this 24 pack is only $12!)-- they are the smoothest and the best! Pick out a fun coloring book to go with it and now they have something fun and creative to do while they heal.  (This one is my personal favorite for only $9 but there are soooo many to choose from!)

 

  • Tangible Inspiration: This bracelet may not be the most practical of gifts, but I am someone who loves to wear something that reminds me I am loved and that inspires me as I keep on the journey.  This $34 bracelet says "she believed she could, so she did" but there are lots of other styles and quotes to choose from.

 

  • Gift certificate to Audible.comWhen she just wants to close her eyes but is audibletired of sleeping... an audio book may be the perfect distraction!

 

 

  • Dry Shampoo and Other Beauty Care: A can of dry shampoo ($8 for 1 so maybe order 2!) may not heal her faster but it certainly may help her feel more whole! My hair gets so greasy that I'd need a can by my bed!  Here's my favorite brand. Maybe add a package of bathing wipes to it, some amazing hand lotion, or some tinted lip balm from Burt's Bee's so she can feel and look better than she feels!

Are you on Pinterest? I've started a board with all these ideas and lots of others if you want to follow along!

5 Thoughtful Ideas of Time and Love

Most of us would probably concur that any gift or expression of love means so much to the recipient, but if you want to go the extra mile and gift your time then these ideas are as beautiful as they come!

  1. Commit to regular check-ins! Reminding our friends that they aren't forgotten and sending them encouragement is so crucial! Ideas include:  mailing a card every week for the long haul, setting a reminder to text her every Wednesday, or making an extra effort to call her and check in more often (even if it just means leaving loving voice mails!)  @ClinkandChat tweeted me this idea: "text a daily joke or meme for laughs!"
  2. Ask the honest questions and give time for deep conversations.  When we're present during someone's pain, commit to being someone who asks the real questions that give them permission to share what's going on inside of them.  Everyone else is asking about their physical health... be willing to process how that is affecting them:  How has this experience most affected you? What has been the most discouraging aspect of this? What has most surprised you in this experience? How would you describe how you've changed from this experience?
  3. Keep giving permission for them to be just as they are. Lots of women said what they most appreciated were the friends who kept normalizing the process and were comfortable with not needing the other to feel cheered or "better." @GenerousAlix tweeted "Don't rush the process!"  And one friend said to me "The person I was most excited to have come visit me was the one who texted and said 'I'm coming over un-showered and I'll be so disappointed if you dare get out of bed or even brush your hair before I come.' as it made me let go of any need to prepare for her arrival.
  4. Offer your time in direct service.  In an ideal world, if a friend asked how they could help, we'd name a few things, but most of us don't want to be inconvenient or assuming.  So if a friend said to me "Here are some options of things I can do... you either pick one or I'll pick for you, but I am going to do something and I'd rather it be helpful to you... so if you want to vote, please speak up!" then I'd feel that much better picking one!  Two awesome ideas come from a couple members from our women's friendship community, GirlfriendCircles.com: Kim Montenyohl suggested walking your friends dog which I think is awesome! And Julia Krout talked about how lonely she felt when she was physically limited after a surgery so the friends who would call and say "I want to bring you dinner and eat with you!" meant so much!  Other ideas could be: offering to do some online research for her (follow-up care, treatment reviews, best physical therapists in her area) if there's anything she's needing to eventually decide, offering to make her kids lunches if they go to school with your kids, call to ask her what you can pick up for her while you're out running errands one afternoon, offer to attend an important appointment with her or to drive her home, or insist on doing her laundry no matter how much she objects.  :)
  5. Organize food drop-off and donations!  Set up a free account on mailtrain.com and within 5 minutes you can start inviting all her friends to sign up to cook a meal, have food delivered, or make donations to help cover medical expenses! It's easy to coordinate and you can help all her friends get involved so she feels loved and cared for in her recovery!

Please add your ideas in the comments and let's crowd source an amazing list that we can all use as an inspirational resource!

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In Sickness and Health, Part 2: Friendship When We're Hurting

While this blog post is the second in a series devoted to friendship with those who live with chronic pain and illness (nearly 1 in every 2 of us!), the principles are such that we'd all be wise to keep them in mind for when any of us are facing pain, loss, or suffering, in any form (all of us, at different times!). We all have to keep practicing friendship even in the midst of our imperfect conditions. Lucy Smith, who has been diagnosed with a debilitating neurological condition, reached out to me several months ago asking for my friend-making advice for those, like her, who live with pain and illness. Because I don't know what it's like to live with chronic pain, suffer from depression, or feel that my body or health places limitations on me, I asked her if she'd be willing to weigh in, too.  She wrote the first post in this series about what she wishes her friends understood about how that pain impacts their friendshipship, and I'll give her the last word in an upcoming post where she offers up friend-making tips to those who suffer from chronic conditions.  But I also wanted to honor her original request and weigh in with what I know about making friends when we're in pain.

May these tips be received in the spirit they are given: with hope for what we can develop and practice, and a gentleness for what's beyond our control.

hurting friend

4 Tips to Creating Healthy Relationship Even In Pain

  1. Give the Signal for How Much You Want to Talk About Your Condition/Circumstances:  Make it as easy on your friends as possible by either stating your comfort level with talking about your health ("By the way, I'm an open book on this subject-- you always have my permission to ask any question you want that might help you better understand my condition.") or by affirming the behaviors you appreciate ("Thank you for always asking me how I'm feeling-- it means a lot."). Or if you feel like your whole life is your health and that when you go out with friends you want an occasional break from it, then say that, too!  ("It's very thoughtful of you to ask, but I'm honestly just tired of talking about that and would love a night off from it.  Is that okay with you?") Assume that you are way more comfortable talking about these things than your friends are and they're probably worried about asking a dumb question, hurting your feelings, giving advice where it's not wanted, or bringing it up too much or not enough. Your ability to give us permission and make it a safe subject (as opposed to everyone feeling like there's an elephant in the room) will help create a safer relationship. In short: teach and guide us how to best interact with you on this subject, we will fail repeatedly if left to our own best guesses.
  2. Remember the Positivity Ratio:  Research is showing us that our relationships have to maintain a ratio of positivity and negativity that stays above 5:1 in order to stay healthy.  Period. This isn't negotiable for a friendship. No matter how much our lives hurt, we have to figure out how to keep our friendships titled toward joy. In other words, for every withdrawal we make on a friendship, we have to make 5 deposits to not go in the red. Positivity can include such things as saying thank you, affirming who they are, cheering for their successes, smiling, laughing, doing something for them, letting them know we are thinking of them, or giving a small gift. When our lives are full of pain (of any kind), it is perhaps even more important that we stay mindful that our friends still need to leave our presence feeling better about themselves and their lives for having been with us if we want the friendship to stay healthy. We're allowed to complain and express hurt, but it's our job to also bulk up our time together with gratitude and love. This is a tall ask, but to ignore it will kill a friendship with even the best of friends.
  3. Practice the Verb Most Challenging to You: Give, Take, or Receive.  Both giving and receiving are crucial to the health of every relationship, but I've also recently learned about how crucial it is that we also learn to take what we need, which is different from receiving that which is offered, right? All three are important for each of us to practice. My guess is that it would be easy to either be so very aware of your needs that you feel as though you're insatiable and need more than most people can give, or that you so badly don't want to be a "burden" or inconvenience on anyone that you might be at risk of turning down acts of love when you need it.
    • If you're saying no to help because you're embarrassed or scared-- practice saying yes, reminding yourself that your friends will feel more bonded to you and your journey if they can be involved.
    • But if you find yourself asking, demanding, or begging for more-- instead practice figuring out how you can give to your friends, making sure the relationships don't center around your needs. I heard someone say the other night, "When we can say 'I don't need you,' others trust us more when we then say 'I want you.'" Your friends don't want to be "needed" as much as they want to be "wanted."
    • Or if you find yourself resentful or hurt that your friends aren't stepping up, inviting you to things that they "should" know you can't do, or exhausting you with their expectations-- sometimes we need to learn to "take" what we need.  Take the time to stand up to stretch when needed, to go rest when you feel the headache coming on, to ask for what you need. Taking is a skill that can be the most loving verb for your own health and for the health of your friendships.
  4. Prove Repeatedly that Their Pains/Joys Still Matter: When I went through a devastating divorce years ago, multiple friends stopped sharing their lives with me, brushing it off with statements like "Nothing compares to what you're going through." They worried that everything sounded like complaining over nothing or bragging about what I didn't have, whether they wanted to complain about their spouses or be excited about their upcoming wedding plans or family vacations. When we're in pain--any kind-- we have to be the ones who keep giving permission to others to have their lives still matter. We have to stop talking and say, "now tell me all about you" and assure them that they still have the right to be happy and to complain. If they don't feel like they can complain about gaining ten pounds or having a headache-- just because we have it worse-- then we can't be a safe place for them in the long-term.  We have to cheer for them, waving off any of their guilt or concern for our feelings, and mourn with them, even when it seems to pale in comparison. Just because we lost a big part of our lives doesn't mean they should too. We will tap into the feeling they are expressing, instead of judging the circumstances.

Blessings on all of us as we continue to develop healthy relationships even in the midst of unhealthy bodies or circumstances....

 

In Sickness and in Health: 5 Things I Wish My Friends Knew About Friendship and Illness

Several months ago, I received a thoughtful email from a reader of this blog who asked me to write a blog post that helped people like her-- people who have chronic pain or illness-- to figure out how to make and keep friends when their energy and health often feels limited, challenged, or uncertain. Not entirely sure I felt qualified to give tips to this heroic population, I asked her if first she'd be willing to share, from her perspective, what she wishes the rest of us understood about our friends (or potential friends) whose health issues might impact how we befriend each other.  With nearly 1 in 2 of us suffering from some form of chronic (often invisible) illness, we all want to become far more sensitive and thoughtful in how we interact with one another.

Thank you Lucy Smith (pseudonym) for taking the time and energy to share with us what you've learned since being diagnosed a couple of years ago with a debilitating neurological condition.  Her ability to participate in the activities she used to do with friends became very limited and the challenge of maintaining and making friends while also dealing with major illness has been difficult. She knows she's not alone as she's found some connection with others in similar situations and I'm so grateful she's excited to get a conversation started with this blog post.

When struck suddenly with a debilitating neurological condition a couple years ago, Lucy Smith's (pseudonym), ability to participate in the activities she used to do with friends became very limited and the challenge of maintaining and making friends while also dealing with major illness has been difficult. She knows she's not alone as she's found some connection with others in similar situations. So she's excited to get a conversation started with this blog post.

We welcome the stories, tips, and encouragement from others who have found their health or pain impact their friendships--  we all have much to learn from each other. -- Shasta

In Sickness and in Health: 5 Things I Wish My Friends Knew About Friendship and Illness

When serious illness or disability strikes, especially at a relatively young age, your whole world gets turned upside down.  Unfortunately, at a time when you need the most support, many people--both family and friends-- don't know what to say or do and, in the wake of uncertainty, err on the side of not reaching out.

After several years of dealing with debilitating illness that completely changed how I was able to interact with friends, here's what I wish they knew:

  1. Let's Talk About It!  It is ok to not know what to say, how to act, or what would be helpful.   But I'd wish we could have a conversation about it instead of wondering how my social circle could evaporate almost instantaneously.
  2. Please Keep Reaching Out: I still need friends, actually more than ever.  However, I may not be able to do what we used to do together at all or I may not be able to do it if I am unwell that day.   It is tough enough to lose the activities that I once enjoyed.   I hope that doesn't mean that I lose you too because I can't do them with you.   Additionally, I need friends who understand that I may not be able to initiate as much (or at all).  Friends struggling with illness may not have any energy or brain power left to initiate and organize but often are feeling lonely and isolated, so initiate more than you might otherwise, even if you've gotten turned down several times.   It is really nice to be thought of and included, even if I don't feel well enough to attend a particular get-together.   If we do plan something ahead of time, I may not be feeling well when the time comes to get together, so I need understanding about adapting plans or canceling.
  3. Practice Empathy, Instead of Sympathy or Encouragement. Empathy is really helpful for maintaining connection.  Brene Brown has some great work on how empathy is different from sympathy.  Empathy fuels connection, while sympathy drives disconnection.  It is a "me, too", rather than "that's too bad".  This 3 minute video gives a great overview:  As she mentioned in the video, rarely does empathy begin with "At least...".  Well-meaning friends often want to cheer you up by essentially saying "it could be worse", but sometimes that just makes you feel like you haven't been heard or understood.
  4. Small gestures mean a lot. A. Lot. This can be as simple as offering to help with some chores as part of hanging out - for example, maybe cooking some good food together so I have healthy meals that are easy to reheat when I'm exhausted and in pain.   Or it might be a call to ask when you could drop by for a quick visit.  Or it might be noticing that a friend couldn't participate in something and asking if any modifications could be made so she could join you next time.
  5. Keep on Sharing Your Life! I really want to hear what is going on in your life - both the difficult parts (even if they seem not to be as difficult as mine) and the successes.   I still care about you and want to celebrate your trials and successes.

Here's the next post in this series, featuring some principles and tips for making friends, even in pain and loss.

 

With Whom Should I Be Vulnerable?

Relationship stress, parenting disappointments, financial scarcity, career failures, crippling fears, health challenges, exhausting depression, unmet expectations, identity crisis, paralyzing indecision ... There is so much in this life that hurts. As if those aches weren't enough, compounding the fear and angst, far too many of us suffer alone.

Heart and Key

Why We Don't Reach Out

We stay quiet for any number of reasons, including (but definitely not limited to):

  • It's harder to stay in denial if we have to speak it out loud.
  • We've been hurt before when we've shared honestly so it feels far too risky now.
  • It's important (to our job, to our ego, to our spouse/family) that we keep up a certain image.
  • We can hardly manage our own shame/grief around the situation that we doubt we could handle anyone else's feelings, too.
  • Our greatest fear is being rejected or judged so why would we ever want to look less than perfect to someone else?
  • We don't really know anyone well enough to share deeply.

Why We Must

Unfortunately I have to stay brief on this part since what I really want to talk about is how to determine who to talk with, but it's worth reminding our brains that external processing is crucial for growth.

Self-reflection is limited to that which we are already conscious of in ourselves; interacting with others is what pushes us to new ways of thinking.

Even for people who prefer internal processing (a descriptive of many introverts), they are limited only to their own thoughts (which often just keep spiraling and spiraling) and can't access all the new inspiration, ideas, resources, awareness of blind spots, and reminders of love, acceptance, and normalcy that others can give. (Similarly, I'd tell those who prefer external processing that there is also a huge need for them to spend time checking in with themselves and reflecting more! Both are needed!)

Furthermore, oxytocin, the hormone that helps us feel safe, connected, and loved flows through us when we are sharing, touching, and being seen.  This powerful chemical also prohibits cortisol which is released by our stress, so engaging with others actually protects our bodies from the impact of whatever is causing us pain or stress. Our stressors deplete us, but relationships fill us up. (We can't always eliminate that which is draining us, but we can always be responsible for adding more of the things that energize and heal us.)

So Who Do We Share With?

  • Do we share with the people we like the best?
  • Or the ones who we've known the longest?
  • Or the ones who have been through something similar?
  • Or the ones who appear to not struggle in this area?
  • Or the ones who have opened up and shared with us in the past?
  • Or the ones who seem to have time?

The answer is: none of the above.

While the person we practice opening up with may fit 1-2 of those descriptors-- in and of themselves, they are not a reason to be vulnerable with someone. The chances of backfiring are high with any of them if we don't take into account the real reason to choose someone.

In short the answer is: The person we practice being vulnerable with the big stuff is the person we have been practicing vulnerability with on the small stuff.

What does that mean?  Let me give you an example:  If you'd rate your pain/fear as a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1-10, then you're better off sharing it with someone whom you've shared with before and appreciated their response.  So hopefully there are a few people you've practiced being vulnerable with regarding matters that you'd consider 5's or 6's? The jump from a 5/6 to a 7/8 really isn't that risky.  You have a history of practicing vulnerability with them in a way where their response was meaningful or helpful so while it may still feel scary to share, you don't need to fear their response or wonder if they will still love you.

You two have practiced vulnerability so it's not a new dance, but rather just a more experienced dance move.

What If I Don't Have Anyone?

The other option if you don't have people around you whom you've practiced vulnerability with already is to intentionally and incrementally start deepening some of the friendships you do have. Think of the scale in your mind and make sure you're sharing only a little bit at a time to then have the opportunity to step back and assess how it feels before sharing more.  In other words, if your pain is an 8, share as much as feels like a 3, before jumping up to 5, and before eventually sharing the 8.

What does that look like? Maybe you're struggling with a possible impending divorce. Before you pour out your heart and dump on someone, see how it feels to share a small piece of it: maybe just a fight you've recently had or acknowledging in broad strokes how hard marriage can feel sometimes. Does she meet you there? Does she judge? Does she listen and ask questions? Does she validate your feelings? If she responds in a way that feels safe to you, then you can up the ante a bit and maybe share something more specific or deep.

But I'd caution you that if you've bottled up a lot and haven't shared too deeply with others, it's probably wise to not go from 1 to 8 in one sitting with someone, even if she is responding kindly and encouragingly. My best advice would be to see it a bit like a first-time at the gym-- don't overdo it; you can always do more next time, building up to higher numbers as you engage more often.  Your goal isn't just to find someone to vomit on, but to build a lasting relationship that can support both of you so make sure you ask about her life, share something positive, and be someone who she would look forward to getting together with again. (If you NEED to talk and don't have those friendships in place, it's usually wise to realize that what you need might be a therapist, pastor, or other professional whose goal is to help you, not to build up a mutually confiding friendship.)

I'm excited for my next book to come out next Spring (the title is Frientimacy) where I talkFriendship cover in-depth about how to deepen friendships, but if you want more now then see pages 163-168 specifically about how to share when you're feeling broken and hurt (and all of chapter 8 on vulnerability for more general sharing) in my book Friendships Don't Just Happen!

What I want for all of you, eventually, is the awareness that you have developed a net of supportive relationship under you, made up of people who have practiced going as deep as possible with you... so that you live with confidence and peace that when the 10 hits (and chances are high it will), you have a couple of people who can support you through it.

Far too many people say, "When I went through such-and-such, I learned who my real friends are" as though it's an indictment against all those who didn't stick by them, but often it says less about the people, and more about what level of relationship was developed.

We owe it to ourselves to develop the relationships that incrementally and intentionally foster safe and mutual sharing. I want that for you!

Leave a comment!  Does this make sense? What questions do you have? Do you have any experience with sharing too much/too fast or not sharing enough to feel supported? We'd be honored to learn with you!

The 4 Best Responses to a Hurting Friend

On my way to meet a girlfriend for an afternoon tea yesterday, I turned the radio on and was immediately pulled in to the last 15 minutes of an interview on Fresh Air with Allie Brosh, the author and artist of Hyperbole and a Half.  Her honest voice talking about her very real and dark journey with depression held my attention.

The Wounded Shouldn't Be Pressured Into Becoming the Encourager

Listening to an interview with Allie Brosh, the author of this book--based on her famous blog--moved me, especially when she shared about journey with depression.

And one statement has stuck with me.  When she was asked about why it had been so hard to reach out to her mother or husband for help during her journey, especially when she was struggling with thoughts of suicide, Allie's answer haunted me.  Her answer was along the lines of, "Because I knew that once I told them, I'd have to deal with their emotions, and I knew I couldn't handle that.  Seeing them get all upset, hurt, or fearful would have put me in the place of comforter; comforting them, trying to assure them that I wouldn't kill myself, etc. I was barely able to hold my own thoughts, let alone worry about receiving theirs." The result? Someone who was suicidal suffered in silence for far too long.

Her profound answer resonated with me because that is indeed what so often happens when we confess our hidden/dark/shameful thoughts to friends and family. Automatically, instead of the attention staying on the person sharing, the person who is hearing it is filtering it through their brain, basically trying to answer the question, "How does this information affect me?" 

Here are some examples:

  • She tells me she had a miscarriage and I feel guilty for having kids.
  • She tells me she's been having an affair and I feel mad at her because my own family has been hurt by these types of actions.
  • She tells me she's depressed and I feel scared or responsible for trying to fix her.
  • She tells me she's been fired and I feel worried that our planned vacation together is going to have to be cancelled.
  • She tells me she's going through a divorce and I feel scared for my own marriage.

It's not selfish or malicious as much as it's the default response we feel through much of life: "What does this mean to me and my life?" We do it with nearly every piece of information, including when we're watching the news, and are relieved when we can say, "Oh that's so sad... glad it doesn't affect me" and move on.  But when it's our friends, people we love and know, it more often than not will affect us.  It just will.  That's the truth of being in relationship: we are connected and we impact each other.

But what maturity does for us is give us the awareness to whisper to ourselves, "Don't make this about me right now... stay present for her.  I will process my feelings later."  And later you should.  So this isn't an issue about ignoring your feelings, but an issue of knowing when it's the right time and with whom you to ought to be processing them with.  (I wrote a  relevant post to this subject that gives you a visual to remind you that it's not the person whose story it is that should be turning around and becoming your comforter or counselor.)

The Four Best Responses to Keep the Attention on the Story-Teller

I know that my default is to try to fix, encourage, share my own stories, or any number of other things that are done with good intentions.  But I also know that in this moment-- it's less important that I feel like I fixed something and more important that she feel heard.  So my mantra is "Keep this about her.  Keep this about her.  Keep this about her."

So all this got me thinking about sharing the four things I try to remember to do whenever someone is sharing their pain with me:

  1. Affirm:  Depending on the situation, appropriate affirmation can be as simple as "Thank you for having the courage to share that with me," or it can be as bold as "Thank you for telling me this... I hope you know that I absolutely adore you and love you and this doesn't change that one iota."  But affirmation after vulnerability is so important-- it reminds the revealer that their honesty was heard and valued.
  2. Ask Feeling Questions:  And then this is where we so often go awry because we usually start going into problem-solving mode (i.e. "My mom had someone who was diagnosed with that and she said that x helped her."), encouragement mode (i.e. "No don't feel that way!  It's all going to be okay!), or, if we do ask questions it's often about the story and the details that really aren't that important (i.e. "When did the affair start?").  When the very best thing we can do is let her keep talking and sharing about her experience.  So favorite questions of mine, include anything that asks her to keep sharing her feelings:  What did you feel when you first found out x?  What has your experience been so far?  How has this impacted your identity?  What are you most scared of?  What has been the most surprising part?  What part of it do feel like is hardest for those around you to understand? 
  3. Validate:  To validate is to "demonstrate or support the truth or value of."  It doesn't mean you have to support their decisions, agree with their assessment, or think you'd feel the same way in a similar circumstance.  This isn't you voting; you're not saying "Yes, I think you have reason to commit suicide," or "Yes, I'm in favor of divorce." It's you demonstrating that you have heard them and that their feelings are valuable.  The goal then is hear their feelings (as opposed to the details/circumstances), tap into your own empathy with similar feelings, and try to say back to them what you heard them say.  It can as simple as, "I ache with you and for you. I'm so very sorry you're going through this." Or it can be as detailed as saying, "Your feelings are totally valid!  It makes sense that you'd feel betrayed."
  4. Ask how you can help: And then a crucial and meaningful step is to ask, "How can I best support you right now?"  If it's someone you know well, you can offer as much as you're comfortable extending: "How can I best support you right now? If you could ask for anything, what comes to mind?  Do you need tangible things like rides to the hospital or a place to stay?  Do you need me to call you regularly during this time?  I know it's hard to ask for detailed help... but I'd so appreciate you telling me what I can do that will be the most meaningful to you if you ever know it.  I want to journey this with you."

As always, I cherish hearing your feedback, your own stories, what part spoke you, or advice on this subject that you want to share with others.

Other relevant posts:

How To Respond to a Friend in Crisis

9 Principles for Responding to a Friend in an Affair

 

How To Respond to a Friend in Crisis

I read a lot of articles and books every week (I prefer the term "learner" to "self-help junkie" but the latter is just as true!) so when one still sticks with me a few days later, I figure I may as well share it on my blog.  The visual that the LA Times included with the op-ed piece, "How Not to Say the Wrong Thing," could save a lot of friendships if we took it to heart.

The Ring Theory

Whoever is in the center of the story gets to stay there... according to the LA Times op-end piece by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman.

The piece written by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman speaks to the temptation all of us have to take someone's story and turn it into ours because their life impacts ours.

After Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to field such comments as, "This isn't all about you," she created the diagram to the right to help us all see that while all of us may be impacted by someone's crisis, we have to stay mindful of whose crisis it actually is.  She calls it the Ring Theory and says it works in all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential.

The person at the center is the one in crisis.  Everyone in that person's life is placed on a concentric circle, starting at the center with the people who are closest to the crisis (i.e. spouse, parent) and moving out to the people in our lives who are less close to us.

How it works, in a nutshell:

"The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, "Life is unfair" and "Why me?" That's the one payoff for being in the center ring.

Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help.

Comfort In, Dump Out."

Implications for our Friendships

Now, there are times in every crisis where I don't need everyone acting strong around me, where it can be meaningful to hear from people close to me about how this situation is impacting them, and where real authentic conversations and intimacy about what we're both feeling can be helpful.  And there are times where it feels good to have people around me vent, letting me still be a good friend to them, too; reminding me that they still have lives and issues and feelings.  Indeed, whether it's a cancer diagnosis or a divorce, we feel each others pain. But with that said, I think the above diagram is still an incredibly fabulous visual for helping us all keep perspective on where we are, and what our primary roles should be, when a friend is in any crisis.

Does their change affect us? Absolutely.  It will undoubtedly bring up our own fears and memories of loss that need to be processed.  And our schedule might change-- more serving and caring for them, less fun times out.  Our conversations might change and be way less meaningful, mutual, or energizing.  So undoubtedly our friendship will feel like it's changing, but that's not the same as our entire life changing.

I know my divorce impacted my friends-- they were losing a couple that they loved spending time with together, they had more tough conversations in their homes having to process who's fault it was and how to support each of us, and it undoubtedly brought up tough conversations about their own marriages. We both ended up moving away so it's fair to say many people "lost" a lot in my divorce.  But... the rings remind all of us that no one lost more than my ex-husband and I did.  I keep this front-of-mind when I'm heartbroken by the news of friends of mine....

A very aware person notices in those moments several things:

  1. This is her story.  I'm only a supporting actor in this movie starring her.
  2. Therefore she gets to call the shots.  Caring for her is the highest priority in this particular story.  I may be the center of another story, but this one is hers. I will try to be mindful of what she needs, and participate as I can.
  3. This does impact me.  I need to own that so I can be mindful of it.  I need to find the appropriate places to process what I am feeling. Most likely, especially early-on, she probably isn't the best person for me to go to for comforting.  She needs to stay in her role of grieving, processing, and healing-- not feeling pressure to "be there" for me. Remember, I'm only a supporting actor in this scene, not the one who steals the show.  In another scene, with someone else, I can be the main character. And need to be.
  4. I will do what I can. Just because she's in crisis doesn't mean I can show up in all the ideal ways. I may be in the center of another story that prevents me from having the bandwidth, or I may have too many unresolved feelings that I can't stop from bleeding out on her, or I just may not be able to serve all the ways she needs or I want to... but I'll be thoughtful in remembering that it's her right, as my friend, to ask. I won't resent her requests-- I'll just do what I can and lovingly say no to what I cannot.

The point is that their story gets to stay theirs-- always. Which sounds obvious, but can be so very hard to do.

In the Good Times, Too?

I think it's appropriate to expand the word crisis to include pretty much any life change, transition, or profound experience.  I personally think more friendships suffer misunderstandings with these circles in the good news more than in the bad news.

Because when she announces her promotion, her wedding, her retirement, or her pregnancy-- our first reaction will be about how we feel about it. We'll immediately start feeling something-- and whether it's joy or jealousy--we're at risk of putting our feelings on her experience.

In crisis we can be the heroes, the rescuers, the good friends, the shoulder to cry-on, the one who wows.  In good news though, when we might be more at risk of feeling jealous, forgotten, or alone, we may struggle more with letting her stay the center of attention.  She may not "need" us as much and instead of being grateful we're not the one who just got cheated on, we're now wondering when it will be our turn to have good-luck fall on our plate.

To be so mindful in those moments that she is in the center of the circle (her life is changing) and we are on the outside rings (we might feel different about her or us, and the time we spend with her may be changing, but our actual lives really aren't changing) helps give us perspective.

Our role in all these moments is to keep her in her center.  Whether it's in the gloom of her bankruptcy, the dissolution of her marriage, or the death of someone close to her, or whether it's letting her be wedding-crazy, baby-obsessed, and filled with retirement-glee-- let her stand in the center of her life, trusting that a ring or few out, we'll be there with as much support as possible.  We can do this because we will find other people in our lives to process our own feelings about what is shifting. We can take care of ourselves so we can help take care of her.

There's no better way to end this post than with the same words the authors ended their article:

"And don't worry. You'll get your turn in the center ring. You can count on that."

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I'd love to hear other insights and reactions some of you have when you look at the concentric circles....  what's helpful? what's difficult? what's clarifying?

 

When The Holidays Aren't Always Merry...

Happy Holidays!

Except when they aren't.

For many, this year won't live up to the Christmas dream.

This time of year the expectations are raised so high that we are ever more acutely aware of what we don't have, who's no longer with us, and how imperfect our family can look. While it's one of my favorite times of year, research shows us it's also one of the hardest and most stressful.  Loneliness sky-rockets, heart-attacks are more frequent, exhaustion is more prevalent, and finances feel most strained.

When I used to pastor churches I was acutely aware that the holidays were some of the hardest times for many in my congregation. This time of year--with the huge emphasis placed on family, travel, and being together--serves as a mile-marker that can highlight who we have lost in recent years or fear losing in the year to come. For many it was their first Christmas without a specific loved one.  For some it was a reminder that they didn't have any family.  For others who were suffering with pain, age, or uncertain health prognoses it was a time of wondering if this would be their last Christmas season. And for still others, this holiday will be spent around hospital beds as sickness, accidents, and heart-attacks are known to ignore calendars.

Even without tragedy and loss, the picture of a Norman Rockwell family holiday can seem more rare than normal. Many don't have the money or time to travel to be with family, others don't want to be with their family, and still others will go but will feel like they can't always breathe through their family dysfunction and dynamics. We find ourselves wishing that we had the soul mate we've been looking for, the baby we have been trying to have, or the divorce that we can't bring ourselves to initiate.

The Hallmark commercials showing the whole family coming home with grand kids, happy hugs, and big meals often leave us feeling like we've been robbed this illusive experience. It's hard to always feel happy when the bar gets raised.

Add to all of this the gazillion extra things we take on: shopping, holiday cards, cookie bakes, kids concerts, company parties, extra spending, shipping lines, childcare during school breaks, decorating, and all the extra activities that help us get into the spirit of the season.

Yes, I was very careful what I said up front during the holiday season to a church full of tired-looking people. For as much as we want to just say "Happy Holidays!"-- saying it doesn't always make it so.

Love's Blessing For You

This season I want to anchor us in something that we can all exude regardless of the losses, stresses, and disappointments that are sure to be there, too.

So for all of you, my GirlFriendCircles.com community, whether your weariness comes from planning the perfect holiday or whether you're mourning the holiday that won't be this year-- I invite you to a moment of rest.

Christmas heart

"Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest."-- Jesus, the Love we celebrate this season

You're weary.  I can see it.  I know it.  You weren't created to feel this anxiety, panic, stress, or fear. For one moment, can you release it, or hold it more loosely? Can you hold all your stress in your hand and symbolically open your fingers to remind yourself you don't have to cling to it? You don't have to grip it so hard.  Do you see it there in your hand?  Outside of you? It's not in you... you choose what to inhale.  But see this stress in your hand and know that you can choose what you hold, or at least how you hold it. Take another deep breath. And let it out.....

You were created to feel loved, be loved, and give love. And that you can do without dollars in your bank or extra time in your day.

Rest from your unmet expectations.

Rest from your fears.

Rest from your ache.

Rest from your sense of alone-ness.

I invite you, in this moment, to inhale love, and to exhale worry.

I invite you, in this moment, to name something you're grateful for in your life.

I invite you to look around and whisper "In this moment, I have everything I need.  I really do."

I invite you to put your hand on your heart and say "I am deeply and fully loved."  Because you are.

You can be love even when you're lonely. Release the picture of what you think you need before you can feel loved.  Let go of the limitations you've placed on what form it can take.  Be gentle with yourself and know that there is no shortage of love for you.

You are love.  You were created in the image of Love. We so often forget, but today we can remember it.  Remember that we are love.

Today, let our actions be connected to our love.  Let's make sure that the things on our to-do list come from a place of love.  And stay in a place of love.

  • Rather than bake cookies because we have this picture of ourselves as having to live up to Martha Stewart, let's bake cookies as an expression of love.
  • Rather than sit next to a hospital bed with fear and regret, let's stay in the place of love.
  • Rather than bemoan the family that isn't, let's find others to love.

Let's reach out and tell a far-away friend that we love them. Let's find a moment to remember that we love ourselves.  Let's think of someone we know who might be hurting this holiday and drop a card in the mail. Let's love.

Girlfriends, our lives may not feel perfect, happy, and perky this season.  Jolly and merry may not be within reach. But love is already in us.  We can love no matter what.  Let's be women of love-- women who exude love, women who receive love, women who give love.

May our Christmases be centered around love, no matter the circumstances. With tons of love for you!  Hugs!!!

 

I Feel Insecure and It Shows

While describing my life to one of my closest girlfriends yesterday, the metaphor of a crab came to mind. That's a first.

Feeling like a crab...

But it captured my feelings, "I feel like a crab who has outgrown her shell but doesn't yet have a new one to protect me.  Like I'm this little naked, vulnerable, soft animal waiting for my new shell to harden."

She laughed, but understood completely.

hermit crab

I googled crabs after I hung up the phone.  Apparently some crabs wait in their outgrown shell until they find a bigger one that fits them.  That's not me.  I don't feel like I yet know what the new shell looks like or feels like. I don't feel like I'm shopping for something new, rather I feel like I'm becoming something new. But some crabs, like the Fiddler Crab simply have to be reclusive and hide until their new shell hardens.  Yes, that's me.  Soft and vulnerable waiting for my new shell to harden.

But I can't be a recluse and hide like they do.

Feeling insecure about my new projects...

My life is anything but hiding under a rock right now. In fact, I feel like I'm being called to step out of my comfort zone in ever-expanding ways--fundraising for my business, developing a book club campaign, scheduling my book tour in February, and just continuing to dream about new ways of fostering meaningful friendships among women.  Which sounds so good, but still feels scary.

Not scary because I'm uncertain about my path. No, I feel quite sure that I am meant to have stepped out of my last shell, which felt comfortable but was limiting my growth.  But scary in the way it always feels when you're somewhere you've never been, doing things you've never done.

Little voices whisper haunting questions in my ear, "What if you can't pull this off? What if you're not the right person to be doing that?  What if you fail in front of everyone?"  And my little critical voice is quick to take advantage of my insecurity as it senses that I might listen more closely now than I normally do, "Shasta, you're not even a business person, you don't know the right people, you don't have the money or the platform that this project requires."  And there I am, a little crab running around on the sand naked.  Squishy. Vulnerable.

But the reason I thought it was worth sharing my vulnerability with you today was because I've observed something else that accompanies these feelings of insecurity: comparison.

Feeling jealous, going into comparison-mode...

When I'm my healthiest, I rarely feel a need to compare myself to others.  Ingrained in me is the strong belief that we're all wired to fulfill different functions on this earth so I don't need to be jealous of someone else's path.  I know that I am the best person in the world to do my purpose and that I am not lacking anything I need to fulfill my contribution.  And that the same is true of others.  Also, having been a pastor and coach, I've seen the underbelly of a lot of lives that would appear perfect to others.  I've sat with women who others envy and seen the secrets they hold and the pain they hide.  I know that their journey is theirs and mine is mine-- no need to compare and contrast and covet.

But that's when I'm at my healthiest. When I start feeling insecure, all bets are off.

I've observed this partnership between my insecurities and comparisons of others with curiosity this time.  I've noticed that as I wonder if I have what it takes to, say, launch a book successfully, that I begin to compare myself with others who are seemingly successful at this very thing.  And as anyone who compares, my only choices at the end of that line of reasoning is to conclude that one of us is better than the other.  Neither result feels all that good.

It hit me today, again, what a huge connection there is between our own personal health and our ability to engage in healthy relationships. The more insecure we feel, the more we'll walk around trying to impress others, or worse, devalue them and try to make them feel bad about something.  I haven't gone there yet. I think just noticing this in me-- that I'm more prone to feel jealous right now-- is helping me show up with a bit more intentionality than at other times in my life.

Feeling hopeful...

This time, I'm trying to breath deeply and remind myself that it's a good thing to outgrow a shell.  And that it's normal to feel vulnerable in between the shells--in between the jobs, the relationships, and the goals we take on.  So I can be gentle with myself. I can nurture myself with more self-love and grace.  I can forgive myself generously for not knowing all the answers, having "enough" money, or being as amazing as I see everyone else being.

And I can be mindful of not letting my own insecurities bleed into my interactions with others.  I will keep cheering for them.  I will be inspired by them.  I will give to them when I can.  I will keep giving time to helping others on their journeys.  I will remember that we all feel insecure in some place-- maybe I can help someone else navigate the waters that feel new to them.  We all have something to give.

And I will remind myself that it's when I'm most vulnerable that I actually have so much to gain by having friends and people around me.  I need them.  I mustn't risk pushing them away or letting my fears bleed onto them.

My shell is soft, but that's okay.  Being a naked little squirmy thing has its advantages too.  :) I can get closer to people, feel things more freshly, move more quickly, and see the world in a different way.

Today, even without a shell, I am as I am meant to be.

 

Forgiveness, Peace & Relationships

Marianne Williamson This last weekend I felt an "ah-ha" in my life.  One of those moments where my soul recognized words that are true for me.

I have long been a student of personal growth, wanting to be awake to life.  It was my desire for leading growth that guided me to Seminary to earn a Masters of Divinity over a decade ago, and my commitment to expanding growth that keeps me on my lifelong search to not just keep learning, but also to keep un-learning. It's amazing how much we hold that doesn't serve us.

This last weekend, while sitting in a workshop by Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher and author, I found words that affirm to all of us the significance of our relationships.

How is My Peace Linked to My Relationships?

We know the statistics about how much we need friends for our health, happiness, longevity, stress levels & identity.  But, for as important as those words are, there is a depth that can sometimes lack.

Williamson, who teaches from The Course in Miracles, touches that depth.

  1. That we all have the same ultimate goal: Inner Peace.
  2. That we all have to go through the same process to find it: Forgiveness.
  3. And, that, on this planet, our curriculum for practicing that is: Our Relationships.

I'd imagine the first step resonates with most of us?  Pretty much everything we do is motivated by a hunger to feel that we're enough, that we're worthy, that we're special, that we're acceptable.  Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and writer, once wrote that 'arrogance and insecurity are two-sides of the same coin.' To be in a space where we know our worth allows us to be both humbled by our value, and wowed by the infinite possibility.

It's the second step that I think is counter-intuitive.  Most of us are trying to find our peace through our titles, our bank accounts, our square footage, our fame, our sense of being chosen by someone, or our hopes we place on our children.  Even as we read this, we can probably see how little it is working.  We all know people who have more of everything we want and still don't live from a place of peace.  Cognitively, we know that achieving the next rung on our ladder won't bring the peace, but trying telling that to our egoes.

Even as we can grasp that we won't find a lasting peace in losing that extra weight, getting that promotion, or finding the perfect romance, neither do we probably see forgiveness as the solution.

Forgiveness is a topic that entire movies and books try to cover, so far be it from me to adequately capture it in one paragraph.  In essence, though, it is the gift we've been given that allows us to choose love over fear.  The miracle referred to in the course: the willingness to shift how we perceive a situation or person. The whisper of a prayer "I am willing to see this differently."

As Williamson, in her book, A Return to Love, says:

"We're not asking for something outside us to change, but for something inside us to change."

That we might become more loving.  Therein lies the purpose of our lives.  It is in the 'letting go' of our fears, anger, defenses, and past stories that we can find our peace.  It truly is counter-intuitive. And both very simple, and very hard.

Why Relationships Really Matter

If you're anything close to human, the word forgiveness is full of more emotion than almost any other word we could whisper.  As a pastor who has journeyed with people from all walks of life, I can attest that I have never met anyone who hasn't had to stand face-to-face with the meaning of this word.  We live in a world where fear and ego seem to reign.  And few things seem to hold more truth to us than the wrongs that were committed against us or others we love.

Forgiveness, while feeling as though it lets someone else off the hook, really is an invitation to us to get off the hook we are on.  Forgiveness doesn't mean we don't set boundaries, stay in relationships that wound, or ever understand why the other did what they did.  Rather, forgiveness is a call to continually remove the obstacle of fear from our lives that we might better receive and give love.

And there is no where you can practice this path to inner peace than in our relationships. In every relationship-- from the most casual of encounters to the lifelong commitments we make to people-- we are encouraged to experience our peace.

How we treat the people we meet either increases our love or increases our fear, determining the person we will become.

"Spiritual growth isn't just about me. It's about the person in front of me." --Marianne Williamson

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I plan to unpack this theme more in a future blog... feel free to leave your questions, experiences or comments.

Also two articles of mine that were published other places last week, if you're interested: Three Steps to Summer Socializing on Huffington Post and 7 Ways Twitter Can Benefit Your Business on Crave.  If you're not following me on Twitter or facebook-- I extend the invitation to join those communities. Blessings on you this week.

It's Hard to Maintain Friendships Through Stress & Change

I'm tired. May was one of those months for me. A month where so much energy was spent planning, thinking, deciding, wondering, processing and aligning. Change, Stress & Transitions

I'm sure you've had those life phases where there is just a lot going on?  Sometimes your call to change is prompted by something external (job loss, break-up, lack of funds, a move, a death), but sometimes it just starts inside as a whisper, a question you ask yourself about your own life.

We are called in these times to invite alignment in our lives.  Whether it's catching up our heart/mind to wherever our bodies are, or influencing life events to align with whatever internal decision we've already made--we're trying to line up life with what we feel. And while it all sounds important and valuable, that doesn't mean it's not mentally, physically or emotionally tiring.  Even good change can exhaust us. (I posted on Huffington Post last week that a move across town takes 6 months for your body to recover from the change!)

For me, this month to step into alignment meant making some tough decisions.

I know from my own life experience as a life coach and pastor that many people pull away when they have stuff going on in their lives.  It's always struck me as unfortunate that sometimes when we need people the most is when we withdraw.  And yet, I get it.

The Toll Our Stress Can Have on Friendships

Loss of Energy: For me, the most obvious was that as my energy flagged, it was harder to keep engaging with everyone.  Even a very social person, I kept feeling a need to pull away, conserve, withdraw.  Having commitments on the calendar felt stressful to a life that felt up-in-the-air. Hard to keep up friendships, or forge new ones, when my energy feels used up in other endeavors, real or imagined.

Unsure of What to Share: I think part of the hesitation to "get out there" was connected to the fact that my ability to engage in small talk decreased during this time.  When you have big things going on-- everything else seems to pale in comparison.  Harder to flippantly answer "fine" when people ask how you're doing. And yet, sometimes those big things aren't ready to be shared with the world, are still being processed or simply aren't appropriate to talk about with every person.  And so the conundrum-- if I don't want to talk about the small things or the big things-- what do we talk about?

Self-Focused: There's no question, when you have things going on that matter-- it's harder to be present for everyone else.  Which is understandable-- you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.  But still... hard to show up on their doorstep with the proverbial chicken noodle soup when you're sick in bed yourself.

My Stuff Brings Up Their Stuff: Undoubtedly, this is one of the hardest part of being in a relationship. We're so inter-connected that it's difficult to have a conversation about anything that matters without it reminding us of our experience or feelings on that subject--divorce, having kids, career choices, dating, retirement, health. My friend talks about moving away... I just think what I'll lose if she does.  One friend decides to take a job for the money and it makes me re-evaluate my own career.  When I went through my divorce-- it brought up all my coupled friends greatest fears.  When we're under stress-- it invariably will be felt in their lives.

I'm sure there are so many other ways our stress impacts our friendship and countless nuances to the ones I've named. (feel free to name others in the comments!)  We simply show up differently when we feel insecure, scared, and tired.

The Commitments that Helped Me

If left to my own feelings this last month, I surely would have been inclined to be a bit more of a hermit.  And to be sure, I certainly did pull back.

But there were some commitments in place that provided me the support of friends whether I had the energy for them or not.  Which was a good thing.  For friends, even though they take energy, end up giving us more energy.  The investment is worth it-- you stick five friendship dollars in the stock and you'll ten back.  (Compared to say, watching TV, where it might only cost one dollar of energy, but neither will it give you more than one dollar back, if that.)

And by the word commitment, I mean things that are routine in my life.  The things that I have put in place because they are important so it's never based on my mood whether I engage or not.

For me, talking on the phone every Wednesday at noon to my girlfriend in Texas is one of those things.  It's not that I wanted to call her those days when I was tired.  It's that I didn't even ask myself if I wanted to.  Hanging out with four friends (we didn't all start as friends!) every Tuesday has taken on sacred significance-- we schedule our lives around that night.  We show up-- no matter how yucky our day was or how intense our PMS symptoms.

My friendships were still impacted by my stress, undoubtedly.  But I still showed up.  (granted, not always full of energy, but still...)

In Latin, the word crisis means "to decide."

Which is ironic because usually in a crisis-- we are prone to feel like a victim, not necessarily someone ready to make choices.  Yet, choices we do have. We still get to choose-- no matter what we're grieving, deciding or feeling-- how we want to navigate it, and with whom.

As you encounter your stresses and life bumps, may you build in the routines that can help sustain you!

p.s.  In the ebb & flow of life, I'm thinking I'm headed back into the flow... :)

The Holidays Don't Always Feel Merry

Having served as a pastor in churches, I know full well that just because words like joy, peace, merry and happy are mentioned more in the month of December doesn't make it more so. In fact, for many, the holiday season can induce more exhaustion, grief and loneliness than during any other time in the year. The Holidays Don't Always Feel Merry...

  • I always pause and pray for those who are grieving for those they loved and lost this year.
  • I hold concern for those whose desires and needs surpass their resources.
  • I ache for those who will experience more hunger, cold and fear this winter.
  • I send love to those who wish they could be close to family but are separated by war, obligations or distance.
  • I feel sadness with those who feel their loneliness heightened during a season where we speak so much of friends and family.
  • I wish hope for those who are gripped by fear-- fear of not having enough, being enough or living enough.
  • I offer peace to those who are weary, overworked, exhausted and strained by their own expectations and the obligations of others.

So we honor those losses, disappointments, loneliness and fears.

But We Can Invite Merry-ness In Without minimizing any of the very real pain that most everyone feels a bit during these busy and high-expectation times, I just want to speak a wee bit of hope into your lives. All happiness research continues to show that our external circumstances don't create our happiness as much as our response to them does.

In fact, one study highlighted that no matter what happens in our lives, we return to the same set point. This was as true for those who won the lottery as it was for those who experienced some sort of physical paralyzing disability. The best things that happen to us give us some elation, but we return to the previous outlook with or without money. The worst thing can happen to us and the same is true, with or without our same body functions.

So if it's our response that proves most impactful as to whether our happiness set point can increase, then how can we influence our response for the positive? Certainly there are many practices that can help shape our outlook, but one of the most compelling ones to me is by surrounding ourselves with meaningful community.

By Connecting With Others There isn't a loss, disappointment or fear that friendship can't touch. Having friends doesn't prevent the pain, but it proves again and again to lessen it, to give hope through it and to provide encouragement and support in countless ways.

  • Some studies have shown that people with a circle of friends recover faster from surgery than those who are unsupported.
  • One study asked people carrying weights to guess the incline of the hill in front of them and those beside a friend estimated it to be less steep than those standing alone.
  • Many studies illustrate our increased immunity and decreased stress levels in direct correlation to our friendships.

The work you are doing this season to invite friendships into your life will pay rich dividends in so many areas of your life. This time next year, you could have several really meaningful friendships feeding your life.

Stepping into the lives of others-- blessing them, listening to them, loving them, seeing them-- and receiving those same gifts, can transform your outlook, raising your happiness set point. I applaud you for inviting friends into you life.

This holiday season, whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, the solstice/lunar eclipse or New Years-- I honor your beautiful intentions and wish deep and meaningful friendships upon you in 2011.

Blessings, Shasta